Katrina, the young heroine in my debut novel THE TRAZ is orphaned at the age of 13 when a 2-car crash kills her parents. Both drivers were impaired. I wish it was just fiction, but as our guest blogger, Sara Witt explains, thousands of people are killed each year due to alcohol impaired driving.
The legal blood alcohol limit varies from place to place and sometimes it is confusing like my home province of Alberta, Canada where hefty fines were recently introduced for .05 levels but criminal charges aren't laid unless drivers asre over .08.
Sara helps us with the new law by outlining the physical and mental effects of various blood alcohol levels.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 10,839 people in the U.S. were killed in 2009 due to alcohol-impaired traffic crashes; that's about 1/3 of all traffic-related deaths that year.
Please note that those killed in drug/alcohol related crashes weren’t necessarily the ones impaired; there are times when the impaired driver escapes an accident alive while an innocent driver, passenger, or stander by doesn’t. What people don’t realize is that in choosing to drive after a night of drinking, even if they’re just “buzzed,” they’re truly placing themselves and others in harm’s way.
According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol consumption results in, “Difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, impaired memory,” and impaired judgment.
It’s not that you physically can’t drive when you’re under the influence, it’s that you shouldn’t. Whether or not you want to accept it at the time, even one or two drinks affect your brain. According to the CDC, drivers are affected in the following ways by alcohol consumption:
· When your blood alcohol level hits .02 percent:
o Your visual functions begin to decline, i.e. your ability to track a moving target;
o Your ability to multi-task declines.
· When your blood alcohol level hits .05 percent:
o Your coordination is reduced;
o Your visual functions continue to decline;
o You may begin to have trouble properly steering your vehicle; and
o The amount of time it takes you to respond to emergency driving situations increases.
· When your blood alcohol level hits .08 percent:
o Your concentration is impaired;
o You suffer short-term memory loss;
o Your ability to process information declines; and
o Your perception is impaired.
· When your blood alcohol level hits .10 percent:
o Your ability to maintain your lane deteriorates;
o Your ability to utilize the brakes when appropriate declines.
· When your blood alcohol level hits .15 percent:
o Your control over your vehicle is substantially impaired;
o You lack an attention span;
o Your vision and hearing are severely impaired.
Despite the effects alcohol and drugs can have on drivers, nearly 147 million people admit to driving under the influence every year, and less than 1 percent are caught. In 2009, 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Remember, when it comes down to it, driving under the influence isn’t just about you; it’s about everyone else that will be affected and harmed by your actions, i.e. your family, friends, and fellow motorists. Children are commonly affected by impaired driving accidents. In 2009, 1,314 children aged 14 or younger died in traffic accidents; 14 percent (181) of those children were killed due to an alcohol-impaired driver and half of those killed in an alcohol-impaired accident were passengers of a driver under the influence of alcohol.
Here are other ways your choice to drive impaired could affect others:
- Friends or family may suffer from immense guilt if they let you drive knowing that you were under the influence.
- Friends or family would be put through the hell of mourning your death;
- Family may have to deal with the legal ramifications of your decision, whether you lived through the accident or not.
The simple fact is this: If you decide to get into a car after consuming drugs or alcohol, you may not live to see the destruction your actions have caused; but your family, friends, and other motorists affected by your decision will. If you are faced with the choice, and won’t do it for your own safety, do it to spare those around you the pain and suffering your actions may cause.